ORLAND, Calif. -- Hours after a deadly head-on collision here claimed the lives of at least nine people and injured dozens more, skid marks from the charter bus carrying L.A.-area high school students extended nearly 100 yards down the pavement.
The hulk of the charred bus sat nose down in a ditch, pressed against a mangled small white car.
[Updated, 3:52 a.m. PDT April 11: A 10th person died late Thursday. A California Highway Patrol dispatcher told The Times that the 10 victims included five students, three adult chaperons, the driver of the truck and the driver of the bus.
Dorsey Griffith, a spokeswoman for the UC Davis Medical Center said one patient who was admitted into the burn unit died late Thursday evening.]
[Updated, 2:47 a.m. PDT April 11: At least two passengers aboard the bus struck in the crash remained in critical condition early Friday, according to a statement from Enloe Medical Center in Chico. The hospital treated a total of 11 passengers, officials said. In addition to the two people in critical condition, four were listed in stable condition and five others were discharged as of 2 a.m. Friday, the hospital said.
The condition of injured passengers transferred to other area hospitals is not yet known.]
Shortly after 5:30 p.m. Thursday, a FedEx truck crossed the grassy median that separates Interstate 5 here and slammed into the bus packed with students en route to visit Humboldt State University, about 200 miles north of the crash site.
The impact, which witnesses said sounded like a series of explosions, caused both vehicles to explode into flames. The fireball and towering black smoke was captured by the cellphone cameras of others in nearby cars.
California Highway Patrol officials said the dead included the drivers of both the bus, operated by Silverado Stages, and the FedEx truck.
The identities of the others killed were not immediately known. CHP Officer Tracy Hoover said that in addition to the students from the Los Angeles area, the bus passengers included several chaperons.
Marc Smutny, 27, said he was nearby when he heard "probably three explosions" and ran to the scene. “It was insane. The bus was engulfed in flames, smoke in and out of the front,” Smutny said. “The bus looked like it took most of the hit. ... It was horrible.”
The first report of the collision came in to the California Highway Patrol at 5:41 p.m., officials said. By then, the prospective students looking forward to a weekend college trip had already been on the road from Southern California for hours.
Los Angeles Unified School District officials were still scrambling to piece together which students were caught up in the accident.
Although officials said they were aware of students from Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown and Manual Arts High School in South L.A. participating in the trip, which was not organized by L.A. Unified, it was unclear whether they were on the bus that crashed.
“It’s almost impossible to confirm who was on that bus because there were three buses,” said a senior school district official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak.
LAUSD Assistant Supt. Earl Perkins confirmed Friday night that students from other districts were also on the trip, but said he did not want to release the names of the other school systems, pending confirmation with them.
“We’re still identifying all who were involved, who was on the buses,” Perkins said.
He added that he and other officials intended to stay up all night gathering information and doing what was possible to inform and assist families. “These are our babies,” he said.
In the wake of the crash, uninjured students were brought to the Veterans Memorial Hall in Orland, where the Red Cross set up a shelter.